Japan is running out of 16-digit credit card numbers amid a government effort to encourage electronic payments and a surge in online shopping during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to local press reports.
Japan had around 283 million credit cards in March 2019, but the number has been on the rise since the government introduced a point reward system for cashless transactions last October. Meanwhile, card payments have become more popular during the pandemic lockdown.
The first six digits of a card number relate to country, brand and other information, with the final 10 decided by the issuer. According to the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, issuers are concerned that there could soon be a shortage of digit combinations from the seventh onwards.
The problem could be addressed by adding a digit but this would cost tens of billions of yen and cause disruption.
"Although we want to avoid increasing the number of digits as much as possible, I think that ultimately, our only choice is to carry the expense burden on our own," a card firm exec tells the paper.